You probably get the idea behind the use of dogs in truffle hunting — dogs have good senses of smell, they are friendly to humans, and they don’t like to eat truffles (as pigs do). But have you seen one in action?
We hadn’t either, until this past Sunday’s expanded weekly market and Salon de la Gastronomie, which promised a demonstration of chiens truffiers. And sure enough, we got what we were promised — plus a bit more canine biology than we were really looking for.
As it turned out, we had missed the morning’s demonstration, since my wife Jan was out for a walk and I was riding my bike. So we checked Daglan’s main square again in the afternoon, and were assured that things would be starting soon. Naturally, they dragged on, and on. Even when the truffle hunter and his trusty dog showed up, they wound up sitting in one of the drinks booths, doing not much of anything. But eventually, they emerged. Here they are, heading for the demonstration arena — a timber-enclosed area of soil decorated with small shrubs and flowers to look like a patch of forest. First, our trusty dog gets a pat on the head.
Now the dog begins to sniff around the demonstration area. Note that the owner has let the leash slip free, so the dog is on its own.
Now the dog is back on the leash, and seems to be closing in on a buried truffle.
Victory — the dog has scented a truffle, so the owner reaches down and digs it out. We all applaud.
By the time the dog had found two or three truffles, this was beginning to seem suspiciously easy. It looked, in fact, like the location of the truffles was marked by a small twig stuck in the ground, so that the dog’s owner could guide the dog to the right spot. Not what you’d call truly gripping. In any case, the dog did do what it was supposed to do, and so the owner rewarded it with a treat from his little plastic bag every time a truffle was found. Here they are, and you’ll note how attentive the dog is:
Then, without warning, we had the canine equivalent of The Great Escape. Our trusty truffle-sniffer bolted out of the demonstration ring when he spotted another dog on the sidelines, and raced over to get acquainted, as only dogs can. So then we were treated to an extended period of mutual dog-sniffing before the owner could lead our truffle-finding dog back to work. Here are the two dogs, sniffing away — in some places where I doubt there were any truffles, if you get my meaning.
Embarrassed, the human truffle hunter regains control of his dog’s leash, and leads the dog back to the demonstration ring. Here they go:
By then, the spell had been broken, and the crowd seemed to lose its appetite for the event. But the Salon de la Gastronomie continued on for the rest of the afternoon. There were fruits and vegetables and bottles of wine and Champagne to be purchased, and the crowd seemed quite capable of doing that. In fact, we bought four bottles of Champagne ourselves.